Book name: The Thousand Names
Author: Django Wexler
Format: Print, ebook
Publication Date: 2013
Star Rating: 5/5
The Thousand Names is the first book in ‘The Shadow Campaigns’ series.
It is best described as historical fantasy fiction. There is a detectible strain of fantasy courtesy of the magic that drives the plot in the second half of the book.
On the other hand, almost all of The Thousand Names focuses on the details of the battles that take place between the various warring factions.
These use technology recognisable from battles in the past few hundred years: large cannon, muskets and bayonets, for example.
The Thousand Names is set in a remote outpost of the Vordanai empire: Khandar, across the Demon Sea.
Khandar was redolent of countries such as Turkey, Syria, Egypt, the Sudan.
Winter Ihernglass is a soldier in the Old Colonials, who have there for some years propping up the ailing reign of Prince Exopter under orders from their own king.
No one wants to serve in the Old Colonials, so most men who do have been sent there in disgrace after some serious failing back home.
Winter’s secret is different. She isn’t a man, though is able to pass for one. This deception becomes easier when she is promoted to sergeant and then to lieutenant because she can sleep in her own tent.
Maurice d’Ivoire is a senior captain. He also has a misdemeanour in his past leading to disgrace and exile in this remote outpost.
Naturally, everyone would love to go home. Everyone except Winter, who is on the run from prison having killed a man when she was inside.
A recent retreat from Prince Exopter’s capital Ashe-Katarion has seen the Old Colonials fall back to the ironically named Fort Valor.
The Old Colonials were betrayed by a local force the Vordanai had trained and equipped (the Auxiliaries). They also came under attack from desert tribes led by the enigmatic Steel Ghost, who hides behind a mask.
Finally, a new force called the Redemption has emerged and it was this shift in the balance of power that led the Old Colonials to retreat.
Reinforcements in the form of green recruits arrive by ship from the homeland. More importantly, a new colonel travels with them, with orders to retake Ashe-Katarion.
It is immediately apparent to Winter and Marcus that, while the recruits may be inexperienced, and in some cases entirely untrained, the calibre of their new leader is a distinct improvement on that of their last colonel.
The colonel orders an immediate counterattack to retake the capital, but Winter and Marcus begin to suspect that the orders from home involve more than just propping up the weak and self-indulgent Prince Exopter.
Many fantasy novels feature Medieval warfare. However, the military technology of The Thousand Names is drawn from a somewhat later period. I was thoroughly impressed by the depth of technical knowledge underlying the writing. Every battle scene was detailed but still remained enjoyable: the detail never became too much.
Winter and Marcus were the kind of heroes you can root for, and the colonel was an impressive leader. I was fascinated by his motives and leadership style, as much as I admired Winter’s good military sense and Marcus’s determination to do the right thing.
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